Deviant employees and dreadful service encounters: customer tales of discord and distrust

Published on Sep 14, 2010in Journal of Services Marketing4.466
· DOI :10.1108/08876041011072555
Anthony Patterson17
Estimated H-index: 17
(University of Liverpool),
Steve Baron29
Estimated H-index: 29
(University of Liverpool)
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore poor service encounters from the customer’s perspective.Design/methodology/approach – Multiple autoethnographic accounts of overwhelmingly dreadful customer experiences at a department store were gathered and analyzed. The writers of the accounts were asked only to chronicle their experiences, and not directed to comment specifically on retail employee behaviour. Thus a different approach to dysfunctional service employee behaviour is offered to complement research on service sabotage, internal marketing and service delivery gaps.Findings – Department store customers, especially the younger ones, have very low opinions of retail frontline employees. Common to all the autoethnographic accounts was a cynicism towards the actions of such employees that pervaded the customer perceptions of retail service encounters.Overcoming customer cynicism was identified as a key objective of employee training.Research implications/limitations – The approach, based on multiple autoethnographic accounts, provides insights that can be overlooked with traditional customer satisfaction surveys. It is particularly useful for eliciting constructive feelings of experiences. By its nature, it can be difficult for researchers to forecast the ground that may be covered by the scribes, and therefore to plan a research project around the method.Practical implications – The findings are relevant to those involved in training retail frontline employees. They strongly suggest that training, through functional scripts and handy customer service tips, is inappropriate for creating successful service encounters with cynical customers, and may even encourage service sabotage behaviours from severely bored employees.Originality/value – The methodology is novel in the context of retail customer experiences. The findings bring customer cynicism to the fore, and question the viability of continuing with retail formats that require monotonous and uninspiring roles to be played by retail employees.
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